Disclaimer: If I owned 'Bones', Booth and Brennan would have at least been allowed to enjoy being engaged over the summer without Pelant pulling that stunt in the finale. Fox owns 'em, I don't.
Some stories I want to write, some I have to write. Guess which one this is. Here be spoilers up to the eighth season finale, "The Secret in the Siege". This story may be just a little angsty at first but, like Pandora's Box, still contains hope. Hang on tight, pals and gals, it's a Post-Season 8 Fix Fic!
Summary: So long as Pelant was out there Booth couldn't risk telling Bones. Fortunately, he didn't need to...
The Break in the Firewall
The Cabin in the Woods
I must be cruel only to be kind.
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
Hamlet, Act 3, scene 4
He woke up at 6:45 AM, blindly hitting the snooze bar three times over the course of a half-hour before ultimately resigning himself to facing the day. His rest had been fitful, as sound sleep had eluded him for the third night in a row. He dressed himself, not particularly caring if his slacks and suit matched, so long as they were reasonably presentable. He called for room service and ordered an everything bagel with cream cheese and Kona coffee, no cream. He turned on the television just long enough to catch up on current events, before shutting it off in disgust.
As he waited for his breakfast, Special Agent Seeley Booth stared darkly out of the window of his room at the Capital Skyline Hotel, and not for the first time asked himself how everything could go so horribly wrong so quickly.
Two years ago, it all made sense. He loved Bones, she loved him. She was pregnant with Christine. He had found a home, a "mighty hut" as Bones called it, where they could raise a family. For one brief period, his life was perfect.
But Booth still sensed the fragility of this new shared life he and Brennan had built for themselves. She still carried the emotional scars of her childhood, her own doubts and fears. Cam warned him, all those years ago, before Hannah, before Broadsky; "If you crack that shell and you change your mind, she'll die of loneliness before she'll ever trust anyone again." Trust was not something that came naturally to Temperance Brennan, so when she chose to trust Booth with her life and with her heart, he realized that he was indeed the recipient of an incredible responsibility. So he respected her boundaries on the subject, while doing everything in his power to assure her that he was not Max, or Russ, or Sully. He would never leave her or their daughter. He was a permanent part of her life and was not going anywhere.
She was an atheist, and still didn't buy into the concept of marriage as anything other than an outmoded societal construct, while he was still a devout Catholic, with all the baggage that implied. So he took an 'agree to disagree' approach with Brennan regarding theology; apart from occasional good-natured ribbing, he did not pressure her on the subject of marriage. "Are you saying that you aren't going to ask me to marry you?" she asked him once after observing his attitude. He just smiled that cocky Booth smile and said, "No, you are going to ask me to marry you." Nothing more was said on the subject; it was there if either of them chose to discuss it again, but he would never push it on her.
Then came Pelant. The one murderer that Booth and the Jeffersonian team still couldn't bring in. Murder after gruesome murder, and all that they could do was follow every possible lead, only to have him slip like quicksilver through their gasp. He framed Brennan for one of his murders, forcing her to take Christine away from Booth and become a fugitive for the duration of last summer. Even after they cleared her name, it took a few weeks for Booth and Brennan to fully reconnect once she returned.
But reconnect they did. They were the center, as he had said before, and the center had held. Their partnership, personally and professionally, seemed stronger than before, despite a growing sense of danger around them.
Was it Pelant returning to menace them again, stripping Hodges of his family's fortune, that did it? Was it the diabolical assailant who shot Brennan with a bullet of frozen blood? Or the viral outbreak at the lab that nearly claimed the life Arastoo Vaziri, the intern and poet whom Cam had grown to love? Whatever it was, a sea change took place in Brennan's reasoning. She would claim, no doubt, that it was merely the result of her evolving attitudes toward love and relationships. Still, her words took Booth wholly by surprise.
"I want to marry you. Will you marry me, Booth?"
Such a simple, declarative statement. Nothing fancy or ornate. So very much in character with Bones. Certainly, Brennan would frequently use polysyllabic words in describing the state of a dead body or specific factors of a case, but in most other cases she spoke plainly and in an up-front manner, especially regarding her desires. And she wanted a life with him. She wanted to marry him.
What else could he say but "Yes"?
But Pelant escaped again, slinking back to whatever hole in the ground he had emerged from after his failed attempts to target Sweets. Booth tried to put the insane killer out of his mind and simply enjoy the moment with fiance and their daughter. Then his cell phone rang.
Pelant was watching them. Monitoring their every movement, their every conversation. And promising a new killing spree if he went through with his plans to marry Brennan.
Booth agonized over Pelant's threat. It was the Devil's equation; five innocent lives would end violently, unless Booth rejected Brennan's proposal. Unless he betrayed the foundation of trust built over nearly a decade of being partners, friends and lovers.
A greater dread seized Booth at this thought; five innocent lives. Pelant didn't say who, but with a cold clarity that froze the marrow of his bones, he realized the two most likely names on the top of Pelant's list;
Temperance Brennan and Christine Angela Brennan-Booth.
Ironically this made his decision easier. He saw Brennan with a near-fatal bullet wound already once this year. In the past she had been stabbed and buried alive during the course of their investigations. He wouldn't put her through that again. A broken heart had a better chance of healing than a fatal head-shot.
That night, Booth was forced to do that which he vowed he would never do to Brennan. He betrayed her trust. He broke off the engagement.
To save her life, he broke her heart.
He assured her that they were still good after that night, but that too was a lie. They were not anywhere near 'good'. Day by day, he could see her retreat into her impervious shell, her brilliant mind compartmentalizing the events of the last week. She had gambled her heart and lost. And Booth couldn't even tell her why he rejected her.
For the first time since she became his partner, he had given her reason not to trust him. And that necessary firewall, the cone of silence that Pelant demanded of Booth, had quickly become a barrier between them. Although they shared the same bed, they hadn't made love since that night. They touched each other less and less frequently. They stopped talking and started arguing. Then they stopped arguing and started shouting.
Two weeks after the broken engagement, Booth started sleeping in the guest room. One week later he moved out altogether. Brennan said nothing to stop him. They still worked together at the Jeffersonian, were still polite to each other, but Brennan would not speak to him outside of office hours, and never on personal matters.
Pelant had changed the game, Booth realized belatedly. The Center no longer held.
And now, four weeks after that terrible night, he was staying at a modest hotel in downtown Washington DC that no one could mistake for a home, weighing his options. He knew in his heart that he had to make things right. He had to contact Brennan. He would not lose her again, especially not to some punk hacker.
He didn't dare contact her by phone or email; Pelant had backdoors to practically the entire DC area. If he tried to contact her by electronic media, Pelant would know about it. That left one viable option. And considering the message he needed to communicate, there was only one person whom he could trust as a courier.
With a steely resolve fortifying his heart, Booth located a pen and a tablet of hotel stationery and began to write.
Max Keenan answered the incessant knocking at his door and snarled at the figure on his porch, "Can you give me one good reason why I shouldn't knock your ass into the middle of next week?"
"That would be called 'assaulting a federal officer'," Booth answered as he stood outside Max's, his irritation evident in his voice, "and with your legal record, you'd get the max."
"Not good enough," the ex-con answered gruffly. "Not after what you did to Tempe. Do you know how miserable she's been the last few days since you moved out?"
"And I'll regret that to my dying day," Booth assured Brennan's father. "Look, I have to be at the Hoover Building in fifteen minutes, I just wanted to give you this." He withdrew an envelope from his jacket and handed it to Max. "Go ahead and read it if you want."
Max snatched the envelope from the agent's hand. "You want me to give this to Tempe?"
Booth stared blandly at Brennan's father for a second before answering. "I'll let you make that call. Look, just tell her I—that I—" He stammered inarticulately, unable to put words to his thoughts. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Please, just look after Bones and Christine. See ya." Booth lowered his head in defeat and turned toward his car.
"Booth," Max called out as the special agent began to walk away. Booth stopped and turned his head toward Max. "You ever hurt my baby girl again, and I'll shoot you in the back of the head. Execution style."
Booth nodded, understanding. "If I ever hurt Bones again, I'll let you have my gun."
As Booth drove away, Max Keenan examined the envelope in his hand. Part of him wanted to run the envelope unopened through his document shredder. Breaking Tempe's heart the way he did, who does he think he is? Thinks he can promise my little girl a new life and just take it away from her?
Just like I did when she was fifteen...
Slowly, he opened the envelope and withdrew the paper within. Unfolding the letter, he began reading Booth's loose but legible handwriting;
I don't know if you ever want to hear from me again after our last shouting match, but please just read this letter. If you decide after reading that you want me to stay away from you and Christine, I will respect your wishes.
I want you to know two things. One, hearing you say that you wanted to marry me was truly the single most wonderful moment of my life. And two, cancelling our engagement was the single hardest decision I ever had to make.
That afternoon, when you, Christine and I were playing in the park, Pelant called me on my cell. He may have been targeting Sweets last time, but he still wants us to suffer. He told me in no uncertain terms that he would kill five innocent people unless I broke off our engagement. He gave me no clues as to who his intended targets are, just a promise that people would die unless I broke your heart, without giving you any explanation. I couldn't let anyone die just for the sake of my happiness. And considering the way his twisted mind works, the first people on his list would very likely be you and Christine. Believe me, Bones, if it's a choice between watching the two of you die and hearing you say that you hate me, I'll take the latter every time.
I'm writing this letter from the Capital Skyline Hotel. Please don't call my cell regarding this letter. No texting or emails either; no electronic communication of any kind is safe. Pelant probably has all of Washington DC wired. One nice think about handwriting is that it can't be hacked. I don't know how you can contact me, or even if you want to, so I won't require you to. I'm spending most of my waking hours at the Hoover, working every possible angle to take Pelant down; my superiors officially declared Pelant's capture to be a top priority. I've spoken with Cam since moving out, and I know that you and the Squints are also working the Pelant case. Hopefully between the two of us we can take that mad dog down once and for all.
Please stay safe, Bones. Keep Christine safe. I can stand living in a world where you hate me, but not in a world where you and Christine don't exist.
With all my love,
Max read and reread the letter, before he gently folded the paper and replaced it in the envelope. Pelant. He considered the name with a growl of quiet rage. That madman was fixated on Booth and Temperance. As long as he was free, Max realized, his daughter would never know a moment's peace. First he robbed her of her freedom, forcing her to take flight with her daughter to avoid wrongful imprisonment, and now he was chipping away at her family, at the foundation she and Booth had forged together.
Not if I have anything to say about it, Max decided. Temperance would probably be furious with him if he became directly involved in her and Booth's war against Pelant, and rightly so; as much as he would like to, he simply couldn't slay every dragon who threatened his daughter and granddaughter. But there was something he could do for her and Booth.
He reached for his phone and dialed. He waited a few seconds before her familiar, professional voice greeted him; "Dr. Temperance Brennan speaking."
"Tempe," he answered, still holding Booth's letter in his free hand. "We need to talk."
Booth gauged the distance between him and his target, released the safety off his gun, and fired off six shots at the target. The entire process took roughly 1.5 seconds. Half a minute later, he retrieved the target from the automated return system, and examined the groupings of bullet holes with a grim satisfaction. Three shots in the head, two in the chest, a few stray shots just off the shoulders and to the side, and one shot (he smirked mirthlessly) in the groin area. Not quite his best score of the day. He still felt uneasy. Normally a round of target practice helped to steady his nerves. Today, it just added to his unease.
"Nice shooting, Agent Booth."
He spun around, his gun still drawn, toward the voice that addressed him. Deputy Director Cullen nodded sagely as Booth lowered his gun, shaking his head heavily. "Sorry 'bout that, Director," he answered, holstering his gun.
"Pelant, huh?" Cullen observed. "Anything from the Jeffersonian?"
Booth briefly stifled a yawn as he spoke. "I'm going to head out there shortly," he said, removing his safety goggles as he headed for the locker room. "I'll talk with Cam and Bones, see if there's anything new at their end."
"You do that," Cullen nodded, an almost fatherly expression on his face. "Then go home. Seriously, Booth, you nearly nodded off in the morning briefing, you look like two miles of bad road."
"I didn't get my position solely because of my rugged good looks," Booth countered.
"I mean it, Booth. When's the last time you had any sleep?"
"What is this 'sleep' I hear so much about? I'll have to try it sometime."
"At ease, Booth," Cullen growled. "As soon as you've finished with the Medico-Legal lab, consider yourself off-duty. I don't want to see you here again for at least another 48 hours."
Booth shook his head uneasily. "Look, I'm sorry, it's just that I have a lot of things on my plate right now."
"I know," Cullen answered, his voice softer but still carrying his full authority. "This isn't disciplinary, Booth. I just need you at your best, and right now you're not there. Go, get some sleep, eat something that doesn't come from a vending machine, spend some time with that little girl of yours."
Booth nodded, understanding. "You have my number if there's any development on the Pelant case."
"We'll call you," Cullen promised.
After speaking with Cullen, Booth stashed his safety gear in his locker, put on his jacket and headed for his office. He sat behind his desk, closed his eyes and considered his options. In his head and in his heart, he knew that Cullen was right. He needed to step back, rest up and approach this case with a fresh perspective. Or at least eight hours sleep and a decent meal. But in his gut something was prodding him on. Every second that Christopher Pelant was free felt to Booth like a ticking of a countdown clock; if he couldn't take him down soon, he was in danger of losing everything. His home, Christine, Bones, Pops, everything and everyone that mattered to him.
The name was spoken plainly, but the voice caused him to push all other thoughts to the side. He has heard that voice so many times over the last decade. Outlining evidence. Explaining a scientific principal. Expressing confusion. Laughing at a joke. Singing with joy. Shouting in anger. Crying in grief. Moaning in lust.
"Booth, I need to speak with you."
Now her voice sounded cold, detached. Impervious. Her words washed over his ears like antiseptic on a cut. With a mounting dread he slowly turned his face to the speaker.
Temperance Brennan was wearing her regular off-white trench coat over a blue collared blouse, gray slacks and thigh-high leather boots. Her features projected an outward calm, but were otherwise unreadable. Booth wanted to ask if Max had sent his letter, but did not dare to ask. "Bones," he greeted him, matching her professional calm with his own. "I was going to visit the Jeffersonian, see if the Squints came up with any new evidence."
"Nothing new regarding Pelant, I'm afraid," Brennan admitted. "But this came across my desk, regarding another case." She placed a folder she was carrying on his desk. "Perhaps you should read it yourself."
"Bones, I..." Booth started but Brennan raised her hand to silence him. "I am aware that Pelant is your first priority. He is ours at the lab as well. But please, Booth, just read this. I believe it would be worth your while."
Booth gazed questioningly at his partner for a moment before returning his attention to the folder on his desk. He opened the folder and immediately recognized the letter he wrote for Brennan. Underneath his signature, he found a new message written in his partner's clear, meticulous handwriting;
We need to talk but not here. I know a secure place. Meet me at my car. Leave your cellular, computer and any other electronics behind. I disabled the GPS in my car. Angela and Hodgins have agreed to babysit Christine.
I love you,
His eyes widened as he scanned her message. He looked back at Brennan, her face almost set in stone, save for the faint upturn of her lips. He felt as though a terrible weight he had shouldered willingly for so long was being lifted from his shoulders, and only in its absence did he realize how heavy it was.
"I trust that you are satisfied with my information, Booth," her voice remained clinical, antiseptic, while her eyes silently pleaded with him for understanding.
"Oh, sure," Booth answered hurriedly, grabbing a pen from his desk drawer. "Let me just sign off on this." He hurriedly scribbled a quick line on the letter and handed it back for Brennan to read;
I'll meet you there. I love you too, Bones.
"Say, Cullen told me to take the rest of the day off," Booth added casually, his eyes communicating wordlessly with Brennan; Follow my lead, Roxy. "Maybe we can discuss this over lunch. Founding Fathers, my treat?"
Brennan shook her head, closing the folder. "Actually, I discovered a small out-of-the-way place that I thought you might enjoy. They have a delicious spinach lasagna."
"Sounds good," Booth answered. "Let me take care of a few things here." Brennan nodded silently and walked out of Booth's office. Once he entered his office, he placed his cell phone in his desk drawer. He also took off his shoulder holster and locked it, along with his service piece, in the gun safe under his desk. As he was more or less officially off-duty for the next forty-eight hours, he figured it would not be necessary. At least he hoped so.
Five minutes later, Booth sat in the passenger seat of Brennan's car as she drove. As per her instructions, he carried no sophisticated electronics with him; even his watch was a wind-up, a high-quality Swiss model that Pops had given him when he graduated from FBI Academy. His cellular, his laptop computer, they were safely locked away in his office. When he first entered Brennan's car, he noticed a map taped to the dashboard, just to the right of the steering wheel.
"So," Booth hazarded an ice-breaking gambit, "care to tell me where we're going?"
"Forgive me, Booth," Brennan answered, "but I am driving to unfamiliar territory without a GPS, and need to concentrate on navigation. Please refrain from speaking until we reach our destination; I'll explain everything then." Reluctantly, Booth acquiesced to Brennan's wishes and sat in silence as the car sped on, heading southwest on Interstate 95 South.
After roughly a half-hour's drive, Brennan craned her neck to take in her surroundings; after moving off the main highway, they passed through greener areas outside of the city, dense forests on either side. She turned a sharp left at one road, and drove for a few more miles, peering intently out of the windshield as though searching for tell-tale landmarks. Finally, she banked the car smoothly to the right of the road and slowed to a stop. Cutting off the ignition, she turned to her partner and said, "We'll need to hike for about a mile. Are you ready?"
"Lead the way, Bones," Booth answered. He still had no idea what to expect at the end of this journey. All he could do was trust in Temperance Brennan. Well, I never regretted trusting her before. Not gonna start now.
After about a twenty minute trek through dense groves of aspen, hemlock and oak trees, a structure emerged from the greenery. "There it is," Brennan announced as she indicated the small, prefabricated cabin in front of them, strong cedar timbers supporting durable log sidings. Approaching the cabin, Brennan fished a key out of her pocket and unlocked the front door. "After you," she gestured to Booth.
"Just where is this place, Bones?" Booth asked incredulously as he entered the sparsely furnished cabin. Cedar beams supported a vaulted ceiling, from which hung a stained wood ceiling fan. The living room sported a futon sofa-bed, currently unfolded flat on the floor, and a small dining table with two chairs, adjacent to an open kitchenette, featuring a cube mini-fridge and a gas range with vents. "How did you know this cabin was-umpf—?"
Within one second of Brennan shutting the cabin door behind her, she was firmly placing her hands on Booth's shoulders and pulling him toward her. Her mouth collided with his in a sudden and searing kiss. Her arms reached behind his shoulders, her hands caressing the back of his neck, pulling him inexorably closer into her gravity. His hands fumbled for the small of her back, the suddenness of her display of affection surprising Booth, especially considering how cold and polite she remained around him since he moved into the Skyline. Eventually, the two partners pulled away slowly to stare into each other's eyes, each unwilling to speak, to move out of each other's arms, to do anything that might break this soap-bubble fragile connection they both feared they might have lost a week ago. Booth gasped as though he had finished an obstacle course and Brennan could feel her heart hammering at her ribs.
"Dad owns this cabin," Brennan ultimately explained, her breathing slightly labored after their intense kiss. "It's a privately owned stretch of land on the edge of Prince William Forest Park that Dad purchased shortly after he was paroled. I chose not to ask where he procured the capital to invest in this property. According to Dad, the area is a cellular and wireless internet dead zone for a radius of approximately 2 miles, and the cabin and surrounding foliage cover will baffle any spy satellites or other surveillance equipment that Pelant might reasonably possess. We are probably as safe from any kind of covert surveillance here as anywhere within a hundred-mile radius of Washington DC. Here we can be free, Booth. Free to talk openly without Pelant's monitoring."
"Thank God," Booth breathed, as apprehension cleared the fog in his mind. Leave it to Max Keenan, that old criminal, to find a way to get around Pelant's constant spying on his family. "Bones, there's so much I need to tell you. So much..."
Brennan touched Booth's lips with the fingers of her right hand. "I know, Booth," she answered, her voice no longer cold and impervious, but soft and gentle, with a faint note of desire. She reluctantly freed herself from Booth's arms long enough to take off her trench coat and drape it over a dining room chair. "There is so much we both need to say, and we will, I promise you. But at this moment, I find that I am experiencing a much more compelling need, one that takes precedence over all others."
"And what need is that?" Booth asked innocently.
Brennan said nothing, she simply moved forward to meet Booth again in another passionate kiss. Her suddenness caused Booth to reflexively move back slightly, causing his legs to get tangled with hers. Before he could regain his balance, he tumbled backward like a felled tree, directly onto the futon, taking Brennan, who tightened her embrace around Booth's shoulders, with him. Despite their unplanned and graceless fall, she continued her amorous assault on Booth, her arms clinging tenaciously to his body, her mouth tasting his, before traveling across his cheek, across his mandible and onto his earlobe, which she gave a quick nip with her teeth. Quickly, she released her right hand from his back, only to trail her fingers along his deltoid muscles and along his collarbone through his shirt. Once her hand reached his shirt collar, she began loosening the knot in his tie.
Booth pushed Brennan off of him, just long enough to gaze into her face. Her cheeks were flushing crimson, her blue eyes darkening with desire. "Bones," Booth asked, as much for propriety as anything else, "are you sure this is what you want? I mean, as of last week we were kind of estranged."
"I'm attempting to rectify that, Booth," Brennan answered sweetly, as she started to unbutton his shirt. "Please, I need this. I need you to claim my body with your own, to mark me as your own again. I need to prove to myself again that two people can indeed become one, as you told me once before. I need you...please, please make love to me, Booth..."
Booth looked up at the woman he loved, her normally serene, porcelain face now unmasked, her needs evident in her eyes and her voice. She was never one to withhold or deceive when it came to her desires. Especially in the bedroom, she was honest and upfront, even technical on occasion, about what she wanted in terms of sex. When she simply asked for him to "make love" to her instead of her more customary use of the phrase "intercourse", he recognized the truth, that she was placing her body and her heart completely in his hands.
Booth took Brennan in his arms and rolled on the futon, situating his body over hers, his lips landing firmly on hers for a few seconds, just long enough to communicate a promise of more intense kisses and touches. "Bones," he replied with a throaty chuckle, "nothing would please me more."
His hands moved down Brennan's sides, making their way toward the lower hem of her blouse, as their kisses became more heated, more urgent. Brennan opened Booth's shirt, popping the last two buttons in her impatience. "Booth," she growled, her voice husky with arousal, "I need you to be naked, immediately!"
Booth flashed his familiar cocky grin which only stoked Brennan's desire further. "In that case, Bones," he chuckled throatily, "maybe you should start getting naked as well."
Brennan gazed at her love for a second, her eyes unmasked, desire and adoration shining clearly on her face. "I find your terms acceptable," she grinned as she began to unbutton her blouse.
TBC, but you knew that, right?